218 U.S. 371 (1910), 1, Montezuma Canal Co. v. Smithville Canal Company

Docket Nº:No. 1
Citation:218 U.S. 371, 31 S.Ct. 67, 54 L.Ed. 1074
Party Name:Montezuma Canal Co. v. Smithville Canal Company
Case Date:November 28, 1910
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 371

218 U.S. 371 (1910)

31 S.Ct. 67, 54 L.Ed. 1074

Montezuma Canal Co.


Smithville Canal Company

No. 1

United States Supreme Court

November 28, 1910

        Argued October 21, 24, 1910




        Where the trial court makes findings of, facts and states conclusions of law thereon but certifies no rulings in respect of evidence, and the supreme court of the territory enters a general judgment of affirmance, manifestly based upon the correctness of such findings of fact, they furnish a sufficient statement for the appeal, and, in this Court, the question is whether they are sufficient to support the decree. Stringfellow v. Cain, 99 U.S. 610.

        Notwithstanding there may have been a prior appropriation of water, if the rights of appropriators were adjudicated in a suit of which the parties had notice, the judgment in that suit may be pleaded as res judicata in a subsequent suit to determine the rights of appropriators, and the amount awarded to an appropriator by judgment in the first suit cannot be reduced.

        The fact that it is within the legislative power to provide administrative machinery to supervise the common use of water does not render invalid the decree of a court providing such machinery to carry out a particular decree if the court deems it necessary and proper so to do.

        As the laws of Arizona authorize the Supreme Court to cause its judgments to be carried into execution, that court does not transcend its authority in appointing a commissioner to supervise the

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taking of water from a stream by the various appropriators to whom its common use is awarded and in apportioning the expense pro rata between them.

        11 Arizona 99 reversed.

        The facts, which involve the rights of appropriators of water of a river in Arizona, are stated in the opinion.

        WHITE, J., lead opinion

        MR. JUSTICE WHITE, delivered the opinion of the Court.

        The decree of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Arizona (11 Ariz. 99), which is appealed from, affirmed a decree of a district court of the territory, determining the rights of appropriators within the county of Graham to the waters of the Gila River.

        In the brief of counsel for the appellee it is suggested that the appeal should be dismissed because the matter in dispute does not exceed the sum of $5,000, and because the appellant has no substantial financial interest in the cause. We think, however, that the record sufficiently shows that the jurisdictional amount is involved, and that the appellant has such interest as entitles it to prosecute the appeal. We shall therefore consider the case upon the merits.

        The issues below were made up by an amended complaint, in which the Smithville Canal Company and the Central Canal Company and the water users under these canals were plaintiffs, and the Montezuma Canal Company and other canal companies, as also the water users under such canals, were defendants. The general nature of the controversy is indicated by the character of the

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decree entered in the district court, just stated. Incorporated in the answer of the Montezuma Canal Company and its water users were averments in the nature of a cross bill against the San Jose Irrigating Company and the San Jose Extension Canal Company and various other defendants, setting up a former judgment recovered in the District Court of Graham County by the Montezuma Canal Company, as settling between the Montezuma Company and said codefendants rights in the water of the river. The San Jose Irrigating Company, it is to be remarked, was incorporated in 1892, and in 1904 the San Jose Extension Canal Company was incorporated, and undertook the management, repair, and operation of a part of the canal previously under the control of the San Jose Irrigating Company.

        The trial court made findings of fact and stated conclusion of law thereon, but certified no rulings in respect to the admission or rejection of evidence. The supreme court of the territory made no express findings of fact, but entered a general judgment of affirmance, manifestly based upon the correctness of the findings of the trial court. Under such circumstances, the findings of the district court furnish a sufficient statement of the facts for the purposes of this appeal. Stringfellow v. Cain, 99 U.S. 610. The question for decision therefore is whether such findings are sufficient to support the decree. Ibid.

        We are concerned, however, only with the error assigned by the Montezuma Canal Company, as that company alone appealed to the supreme court of the territory, and it is the only party to the record now seeking a reversal of the judgment of affirmance entered by the appellate tribunal.

        The contentions urged by the Montezuma Company are two-fold: first, that due effect was not given to the prior judgment which it pleaded, and which determined its rights in the water of the Gila River as against the

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appropriators of waters from that river at points above the head of its canal, and second, that error was committed in the appointment of a so-called water commissioner, charged with the duty of distributing the water among the different canals, according to the adjudged priorities. There being, then, no controversy in respect to the rights to water decreed in favor of the canals situated below the head of the Montezuma Canal Company, the findings in respect to those canals need not be particularly referred to.

       Before stating the contents of the decree which was entered in the trial court, we make a condensed statement of the facts embodied in the findings upon which the decree was based in order to a comprehension [31 S.Ct. 69] of the controversy arising for determination.

        There are 23,728 acres of land in the County of Graham, Territory of Arizona, which are irrigated by water diverted from the Gila River by means of twenty-five ditches or canals. These canals extend from a point in Section 29, Township 6 South, Range 28 East, at first in a southwestwardly and then in a northwestwardly direction, to a point 41 miles distant at the northeast corner of the southeast quarter of Section 35, Township 4 South, Range 23 East. Commencing with the head of this irrigation system, the canals in question, in their order as respects the flow of the waters of the river and the number of acres irrigated by each canal, are as follows: Brown, 100 acres; Sanchez, 400 acres; Mejia, 320 acres; Fourness, 260 acres; San Jose, 3,000 acres; Michelena, 450 acres; Montezuma, 3,750 acres; Union, 2,900 acres; Sunflower, 400 acres; Graham, 962 acres; Central, 2,675 acres; Oregon, 1,100 acres; Smithville, 1,760 acres; Bryce, 515 acres; Dodge, 450 acres; Nevada, 800 acres; Curtis, 800 acres; Kempton, 850 acres; Reid, 100 acres; Ft. Thomas, 960 acres; Thompson, 240 acres; Military, 400 acres; Saline, 46 acres; Zeckendorf, 50 acres. The Montezuma canal was first constructed. The six canals situated above the head of that canal were constructed as follows: the San Jose and the Michelena in 1874, the Mejia in 1877, the Sanchez in 1883, the Fourness in 1891, and the Brown in 1896. The first canal below the Montezuma is called the Union, and

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was constructed in 1879. Among other things it was found that the Union Canal

carries water for 100 acres that were reclaimed in 1874, and irrigated by water that was then diverted from the river and carried to the land by the Montezuma canal. . . .


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